The Guessing Game: “Hey — do you know who I am?” Yes, they will recognize familiar voices, but please, resist the temptation to prove it to others by quizzing them. Be considerate and identify yourself!
Fearing the “s” word: Someone will say something like, “Let’s go see what’s for lunch,” then gasp, “Oh no, I shouldn’t have said ‘see!'” Lighten up. Everyone uses “see,” “look,” and “watch out” — including the blind or visually impaired.
Confusing blindness with deafness: “HELLO, HOW ARE YOU???” I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked if I teach blind kids by using sign language — even during job interviews. Do teachers of the hearing impaired get asked if they know Braille? And on the flip side:
Blind people can hear EVERYTHING. Do the visually impaired have so much better hearing than the rest of us? No, but we rely on it much more, so we are probably do listen and pay attention better. We also don’t have visual “distractors” so we can focus more on what we hear. Unless we don’t want to hear it — we are human, after all.
Playing “chicken”: “I don’t really believe he’s blind, even with that white cane. I’m not moving from this side of the hallway.” That attitude will leave you sprawled on the floor. Get out of the way — or at least make yourself known by saying something or making a noise.
Trying to give us something without touching our hand. You would be amazed how many times this happens. “Here’s your homework,” and then you hold it out in space. Again, exactly how are we going to know where it is? When handing things to the visually impaired, please touch their hand with it so they know where it is.
Enabling/Low expectations: First, always ask the person if they would like some assistance. Then, offer your arm and let them hold it, usually right above the elbow. Being too over-protective will dramatically hinder their progress toward independence and living a happy, social, productive life. Allow us to fail, get a minor injury, and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn.
Invitations to feel your face. I’ve answered this question a lot from sighted people who have felt awkward allowing this to happen. Well, they feel awkward for a reason — it’s not socially acceptable! Do you ask sighted people if they’d like to feel your face? If you wouldn’t let a sighted person feel you, don’t let a blind one.
Pure meanness: Placing obstacles in the blind or visually impaired person’s path, throwing things at them, rearranging furniture, moving or taking their belongings, calling them names, taking them to the wrong place and leaving them. Yes, it is mean – and it happens all too often. Educating ourselves and our children about disabilities may help reduce the bias, discrimination and ignorance.